Lenny Leonard announces that the show is going to start with some bad news and introduces Johnny Gargano. His doctors have not medically cleared him to wrestle tonight. Gargano apologizes to the fans. Tony Nese interrupts and he is not a happy camper. He accuses Gargano of “milking” his back injury. Gargano promises him that he’s going to find a way to wrestle tonight.
Opening Match: Caleb Konley and Scott Reed (3-0) vs. Kennedy Kendrick and Damian Angel (0-0)
Angel snaps off a headscissors on Konley and does the same to Reed. He connects with a leg lariat on Reed. Kendrick misses a baseball slide and gets caught by a boot from Konley. The Scene isolate him until he connects with a superkick on Reed and makes the tag. Angel can’t get much offense going. Kendrick falls victim to stereo superkicks. The Scene hit Obscene on Angel for the win at 4:54. Based on their record, the Scene should be contenders for the Open the United Gate Titles but they haven’t really faced any worthwhile team except for CIMA and Masaaki Mochizuki earlier this year. Kendrick and Angel didn’t receive enough offense to excite the crowd and this match just plodded along for the five minutes. *½
Match #2: Style Battle Tournament Match: AR Fox (4-3) vs. Tommy Taylor (0-2)
Taylor attempts to ground Fox early on. Fox gets pushed to the floor while looking for a springboard. Taylor connects with a few uppercuts and takes control with a nice blockbuster-neckbreaker combination. Fox comes back with a springboard dropkick followed by a slingshot dropkick. He matrixes to avoid a lariat and connects with an enzuigiri. Taylor avoids a springboard 450 and hits a half nelson suplex. He adds a TKO for a nearfall. Taylor goes up top but Fox catches him with a sunset bomb from the middle rope for the victory at 8:16. I think Taylor looked more impressive here than he did in his previous two matches this weekend. He showcased some new offense and worked well with Fox. They were just getting started before the finish and I would be interested to see what they could do with more time. **½
After the match, Fox tells Lenny Leonard that high-flying is his specialty. Lince Dorado enters the ring and tells everyone that he’s tired of being overlooked. He challenges Fox to a match…right now! The crowd goes crazy and we’re on…
Match #3: AR Fox (5-3) vs. Lince Dorado (1-1)
Dorado connects with a superkick and hits a tiger suplex. Fox responds with a stunner and bicycle kicks Dorado to the floor. Fox follows out with a dive along with his kick-flip moonsault. He hits a guillotine leg drop from the top rope. In the ring, Dorado lands a moonsault and hits a senton from the middle rope. Fox retreats to the floor where he’s taken out by a springboard corkscrew plancha. Fox then takes a seat but Fox wipes him out with yet another dive. Back in, Fox hits a rolling death valley driver but finds knees on a swantan attempt. Both men are down. They exchange strikes and Fox connects with a slingshot dropkick. He hits a shooting star cannonball in the corner for a nearfall. Dorado snaps off a hurricanrana from the top rope and hits a flipping DDT. He kind of hits a shooting star leg drop and follows with a moonsault from the middle rope to compensate. The crowd doesn’t seem to mind. Fox crotches Dorado on the top rope and hits Lo Mein Pain for the win at 11:22. Call me a buzzkill, but I’ve seen Fox have much better matches that proceeded in a similar way as this showcase (mainly on CZW undercards). The action was solid in that they attempted some pretty intricate aerial maneuvers and everything went according to plan except for the shooting star leg drop. My discontent for this match is difficult to explain, but I just wasn’t losing my mind like everyone in the crowd. I will say that Dorado should have opened some eyes this weekend and I hope this isn’t the last we see of him in EVOLVE. ***
Match #4: Alex Reynolds and John Silver (0-1) vs. Mike Cruz and Cheech (0-1)
Silver and Cruz have a nice exchange, showing their familiarity with each other. Reynolds and Silver connect with stereo basement dropkicks on Cruz. Cheech snaps off a headscissors on Reynolds, who retreats to the floor. Cheech follows with double knees from the apron. Silver lands a dive to the floor onto Cheech and Cruz adds a dive of his own. In the ring, Cheech hits a slingshot senton on Reynolds. Cruz follows with a flying crossbody. Cheech gets Silver in a gory special and Reynolds in a pendulum at the same time. Reynolds and Silver lay in a barrage of strikes on Cheech and isolate him. He blocks a hurricanrana from Silver, hits a sit-out facebuster, and makes the tag. Cruz connects with a springboard gamengiri on Reynolds. Silver superkicks Cruz into a stunner from Reynolds. Cheech hits a pumphandle slam on Silver but runs into a double stomp. Cheech responds with a facewash dropkick. Cruz lands a springboard frog splash onto Reynolds for a nearfall. Silver hits a half nelson suplex on Cruz. Reynolds and Silver follow with a double team wheelbarrow slam for the victory at 13:03. I am shocked. These were four guys that I had absolutely zero interest in coming into this weekend and they put on a great little match for its place on the card. Despite the fact that neither team has been together for very long, each team actually came off like a legitimate duo. The action wasn’t as flashy as Fox/Dorado, but there were some double team moves and exchanges that I’d never seen before. I think this match will surprise a lot of people, especially if they were expecting something like the opener. ***¼
Match #5: Jake Manning (1-3) vs. Blain Rage (0-0)
Rage connects with a basement dropkick and Manning takes some time to look over his manual. The crowd chants “girl scout” at him. Rage misses a charge and drives his own shoulder into the ringpost. Manning hits a back suplex and takes over. Rage escapes a neckbreaker and connects with an enzuigiri. He hurricanranas Manning from the middle rope and connects with a missile dropkick for a nearfall. Manning sneaks in a rollup while holding Rage’s tights for the win at 7:37. This contest served its purpose by giving the crowd a breather after two high-energy matches. They kept the action fairly basic but the match worked just fine. Also, I support any opportunity for Manning to pick up a victory. **
Match #6: Johnny Gargano (6-4) vs. Tony Nese (2-3)
Nese neutralizes most of Gargano’s offense until he finds himself in an early Gargano Escape, which he quickly escapes. Gargano hits a flatliner into the middle turnbuckle along with a neckbreaker. Nese gets clotheslined to the floor. He trips Gargano on the apron and Gargano lands back-first across the apron. Nese rams Gargano back-first into the apron. Nese connects with a springboard lariat in the ring and takes control with a backbreaker. Gargano blocks a second springboard lariat attempt and hits a flatliner. He follows with his slingshot spear an applies an octopus hold in the ropes. Nese tries a hurricanrana but gets powerbombed. Gargano lands a dive to the floor. Back in, Nese misses a lionsault and falls victim to a slingshot DDT. Nese hurricanranas Gargano from the middle rope. They trade punches and kicks ending with Gargano connecting with a discus lariat. Both men are down. Gargano blocks a dead-lift german suplex and lawn darts Nese into the turnbuckles. Nese hits a one-arm bucklebomb and connects with a facewash knee strike. Gargano responds with a superkick. Nese shrugs off a reverse hurricanrana and hits a dead-lift german suplex for a nearfall. Gargano falls victim to a spider german suplex. Nese finds knees on a 450 attempt. Gargano hits Hurts Donut and applies the Gargano Escape for the victory at 14:58. Gargano and Nese got this match over through sheer power of will. I thought the point of this match was for Nese to brutalize Gargano’s back, only for Gargano to squeak out the win. Although Gargano’s back injury was forgotten about in the second half of the match, they still got their point across through some great back and forth action. Nese truly brought the fight to Gargano here and the result was a strong match with both men coming out of the contest for the better. ***½
Match #7: Chuck Taylor (9-3) vs. Samuray Del Sol (1-3)
Del Sol snaps off a headscissors. Taylor cartwheels out of an armdrag and tries a quick pin attempt to no avail. Del Sol back handsprings into another headscissors and teases a dive. He takes down Taylor with an armdrag and looks for an early armbar. Taylor screams his way to the ropes. Del Sol misses double knees and Taylor takes control with a back suplex. Del Sol fights back with a standing sliced bread. Taylor traps him in a headscissors but he’s able to reach the bottom rope. Del Sol hits a tornado DDT and lands a dive to the floor. Back in, Taylor blocks a springboard hurricanrana and hits a sit-out powerbomb. Del Sol answers with a code red. He goes up top but Taylor suplexes him to the canvas. Del Sol dodges a top rope moonsault and hits a reverse hurricanrana for the win at 12:55. I wasn’t expecting this match to reach the level of Del Sol’s encounters against El Generico, but there was still something missing from this contest. The crowd has been vocal for the entire show thus far but even they weren’t reacting very strongly to the action. However, it was nice to see Taylor showcase his ability to work the lucha style, which is something he doesn’t get to do very often in DGUSA and EVOLVE. Much like Fox/Dorado, although I wasn’t blown away by this match, it was still enjoyable and worth rewatching. ***
Match #8: Style Battle Tournament Finals: Bobby Fish (5-4) vs. Jon Davis (3-3)
They trade control on the mat until Fish connects with a dropkick. He hits a slingshot senton and lays in a series of kicks. Davis halts his momentum with a powerslam and starts showcasing his power offense. Davis hits a delayed vertical suplex and takes control. Fish avoids a moonsault from the middle rope and connects with a knockout kick. Fish misses a moonsault but lands on his feet. He takes out Davis with a plancha. In the ring, Fish connects with a diving headbutt and hits a dragon screw leg whip. Davis fires back with a roaring forearm and a lariat. Fish applies a cross armbreaker but Davis quickly reaches the ropes. Davis catches Fish off-guard with a dead-lift german suplex. Fish kicks away at the injured left leg but gets elevated into a slam. Davis locks in a boston crab but Fish reverses into the Fish Hook. Davis is able to reach the bottom rope. Fish misses a knee strike and falls victim to Three Seconds Around the World for a nearfall. Fish recovers with an exploder into the turnbuckles. They battle up top and Fish hits a superplex from the middle rope. Davis avoids a charge and hits a bucklebomb. He pounces Fish and connects with a lariat. Davis hits another Three Seconds Around the World to win the Style Battle Tournament at 16:20. There have been a few matches throughout the tournament (Fox/Fish and Fox/Davis) that have really put over the strategy that is involved with a wrestler’s style and this match was another one of them. Davis found success when he would rely on his power offense but any deviation from the power game would give Fish the advantage. They told that story incredibly well and this match came awfully close to topping Fox/Fish as the best match of the tournament. I’m hoping for Davis to get a shot at Johnny Gargano on the next set of EVOLVE shows. ***½
Lenny Leonard congratulates Davis on winning the Style Battle Tournament. Davis says that he wants an EVOLVE title and that the title belongs around his waist. Let’s all take a moment to remember that Johnny Gargano and the Open the Freedom Gate Title exist. Davis thanks the crowd to end the show.
Overall: A quick look at the star ratings should tell you that EVOLVE 16 is worth a replay or DVD purchase. The card was consistent and this show more than any other this weekend highlighted the depth of the roster. I’m still partial towards EVOLVE 14, but this show was not too far behind. Next, EVOLVE should be commended for a great weekend of events. Although attendance might not be where it should, the in-ring quality has been high and the promotion is rolling along in 2012. Additionally, the Style Battle Tournament worked much better over multiple nights than the one-night format from last year. In fact, it’s a concept that I hope EVOLVE tries out next year as well. Overall, EVOLVE 16 was a strong show that closed out a weekend of them.
Ryan Rozanskii has been a professional wrestling fan since he was six years old. His first memory of it comes from witnessing Scott Hall win a sixty-man battle royal at WCW World War 3. Of course, that was before alcohol became a problem for Scott. Speaking of alcohol, Ryan is a youngster…not even old enough to consume alcoholic beverages. However, Ryan has used swear words to describe how much he loves Pro Wrestling Ponderings. That is something he’ll never try again, due to the risk of possibly being grounded by his parents. Some people compare Ryan to Butters from South Park. Currently, that comparison has yet to have any legitimacy.
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